You are a brand and everything you do is a brand extension. It’s never been more important for authors, speakers, small business owners and entrepreneurs to understand the basics of personal branding.
When I was a kid my folks told me that I could be anything I really wanted to be. Although not entirely true – I will never be 5’8″ – I have found that I have nearly unlimited possibilities. I’m a writer, a marketing consultant, a wife and mother, a business woman, a coach, a loyal friend, a passionate seeker of new challenges and also someone who loves the quiet solitude of reading on a beach. That abundance of choices and gifts can sometimes muddy the waters when I’m trying to define my “brand” to myself and to potential clients.
I’m working hard to be very clear about who I am and what I do. When I succeed in communicating this with clarity, I’m happier and more productive and so are my clients. I’ve looked to successful leaders to help me identify some “best in class” practices that are helping me define my brand. I hope you’ll find them useful and inspiring as well.
For examples of people who have “done it right” while creating their own personal brand, look to the exploding world of social media. These social media rock stars have perfected the art of personal branding and become major social media players.
On Twitter and throughout the web, major marketing players like Gary Vaynerchuk, @garyvee, Pete Cashmore, @mashable and Mari Smith, @marismith are instantly recognizable wherever they appear and there is no doubt in the viewer/consumer’s mind what their brand is all about.
Why? They all know these five secrets to creating their brands.
1. Create a focused brand. Gary Vaynercuk‘s earliest message on http://www.tv.winelibrary.com was “I taste wine and tell people about it.” He began in 2006 and was in the forefront with his episodic video blogging, combining his dynamic personality with video to demystify wine for the masses. Pete Cashmore at http://www.Mashable.com began in 2005 focusing exclusively on web 2.0 and social networking news. He succeeded in getting out in front of an industry that was about to explode and became a go-to resource for all things web and social. Mari Smith, http://marismith.com, was dubbed the “Pied Piper of the Online World” by Fast Company and joined the fray in 2007, rapidly emerging as a relationship and social media marketing expert and teaching others how to jump onto this very fast moving train. Each one of these leaders began with a very focused area of expertise. Take time to decide what it is you want to share with the world. Lesson: If you have more than one idea, focus on the one idea that excites you the most. Creating a brand takes time, energy, and resources. Put those precious commodoties to work on somethat that really jazzes you.
2. Fill a need: Make sure there is a need in the world for what you offer. People didn’t want to look foolish when ordering wine. Everyone was talking about web 2.0 and very few people knew what that meant. Social media and relationship marketing are hot, hot, hot and everyone is scambling to catch up and not be left out. These three innovators filled a need with their brand. Lesson: Ask yourself if your idea fills a need, not just a desire, but a real need.
3. Engage in conversation: You can be the most knowledgable brilliant person on earth in a specific area but you’ll have trouble establishing your brand beachhead without engaging in conversation. All three of our successful examples engage in extensive communications with the world through social media. They blog, they teach, they speak in public, and appear at conferences and on television and radio. But they began their rise by having intimate, informative, personal conversations with people who wanted to know what they know–people who shared their primary passion. Those conversations took place on Twitter, Facebook, websites and via e-mail to name a few. Lesson: Join the conversation. Get on Facebook. Join Twitter. Talk, follow, friend, listen and participate.
4. Build a following through service: All that conversation is wonderful but wouldn’t have led to the leadership status that each one is now enjoying IF they had not provided real service. The conversations that Gary, Pete and Mari are having with their followers is successful because each one provide service while sharing their knowledge. They offer something useful, desirable and valuable and deliver it through “conversation.” Lesson: Be of service to people who “give” you their time and trust.
5. Evolve, engage and extend. To rise to the top in your field, you need to become a leader. Participate fully in the community in which you are, or want to be, and expert. For example, in marketing and social media, the landscape changes rapidly. This means that to be a leader, you must be fully engaged in social media avenues to keep your clients abreast of what’s new. In a very short time Facebook eclipsed MySpace, Twitter exploded and made blogging into microblogging and YouTube challenged television viewing habits and now live streaming and podcasting are disrupting and changing the way we consume information.
Your brand will need to adjust to new developments, evolve and grow in response to consumer needs, engage with your peers and fan base to keep current with their needs and extend your brand to become a thought leader in your field.